Google to shut down Loon

WASHINGTON — Google announced Jan. 21 it is shutting down Loon, a venture to provide wireless connectivity by balloon that has been seen as both complementary to and competitive with satellite networks.

In a blog post, Astro Teller, head of X, the advanced projects or “moonshot factory” division of Google parent company Alphabet, announced that Loon will wind down operations in the next several months. Google started Loon in 2012 as part of X and spun it out into a separate company in 2018.

“Sadly, despite the team’s groundbreaking technical achievements over the last 9 years,” Teller wrote, “the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped. So we’ve made the difficult decision to close down Loon.”

Alastair Westgarth, chief executive of Loon, offered a similar assessment in a separate statement. “While we’ve found a number of willing partners along the way, we haven’t found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business,” he said. “Today, I’m sad to share that Loon will be winding down.”

Loon developed technology to provide wireless services using long-duration balloons in the stratosphere. The balloons served as essentially high-altitude cell towers, providing LTE connectivity to mobile phones.

Loon was for many years largely an experimental project, but in the last year was starting to move into more regular operations. In July 2020, Loon announced it had started providing commercial service in parts of Kenya, using about 35 balloons to provide service over a region of nearly 50,000 square kilometers. Loon called its Kenyan deployment the “first non-emergency use of Loon to provide connectivity on a large-scale basis.” Via – Space News

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